There. I said it. The quest for the ultimate InstaPerfect picture is ruining my road trip holidays. And I’m not happy about it. And I might be one of the ones to blame too! This idea that you can’t go on holiday without having amazing photos to put on Instagram to prove you went to said lovely place, and had the expected perfect holiday is getting me down, ticking me off, and ruining my holidays.
Our Holiday Parameters
In the run up to our recent four day road trip to Scotland, to show the girls the beautiful Scottish Highlands, I was getting so excited about being able to take some pictures that showcase the epic beauty that is Scotland itself. [I do need to disclose that it was the long Easter weekend.] My husband is self-employed and our three kids are in mainstream school so we are firmly part of the ‘go on holiday during the peak seasons and pay out of your nose to enter over-crowded places with others of your genre’ group.
We’ve been planning a return road trip to Scotland for years! But after ordering our family mini-van at the end of last year, we started seriously planning our holidays for 2019. This trip was scheduled in our family calendar back in December 2018 already.
We set off for Scotland from Yorkshire early on Good Friday morning. As we anticipated, the roads were quite busy. We left early despite the whining from the children because, well, I hate wasting time when I’m going on a road trip by sleeping in. I mean, the whole point is to go away, right!? As a SAHM I spend 90% of my time at home, and the other 10% is spent on the school run, or grocery shopping. So, in the words of the legend that is Bon Jovi …
Gonna live while I’m alive, I’ll sleep when I’m dead.Bon-Jovi
We were up in Scotland by late that morning, and after making a few stops along the way (yes, kids need to pee all the time!) we got through Glasgow, and that’s when the traffic really started to get heavy. Determined to remain in good holiday spirits and hoping it was just a bottleneck, I tried to maintain a good attitude.
The Road Trip Itinerary
After spending our first night in Balloch we then set off for the Highlands. Our Scotland road trip itinerary looked like this:
- Drive from Balloch to Fort William on the scenic A82.
- Detour to Glenfinnan Viaduct to check out the ‘Harry Potter’ train line,
- Head up to Fort William and to go up Ben Nevis on the Cable Car.
- Sleep in Drumnadrochit that night which is the town of Loch Ness Monster fame!
- Cruise Loch Ness to find Nessy and visit Urquhart Castle,
- Then head around the top of Loch Ness and start heading back down again, possibly via Blair Castle and/or Edinburgh
- Sleep in Jedburgh, close to the border,
- Head home on Monday by midday because … laundry!
All these stops (apart from the laundry of course), are tourist attractions. I get it. Tourism is good in most places, and it’s one of the most important industries in Scotland. And for good reason. Everyone should visit Scotland at least once in their lives, if not multiple times because there is so much beauty, culture, and … it is everything. (Yes, I’m of Scottish descent – the family Kinnaird).
What I didn’t realise was that the A82 road/drive itself from Balloch up to Fort William was itself a tourist attraction. That’s on me. I can totally see why it is. The scenery is stunning.
Disclaimer: What this picture doesn’t tell you is that it was taken on the move, from the car with my phone. I then edited the hell out of it.
The Ideal Trip
What we were hoping to do was to take a comfortable drive through the Highlands and admire the dramatic scenery, maybe stopping at a designated layby to stretch our legs, take a walk down to investigate the crystal clear meandering stream, making some memories along the way. I was definitely planning to take some lovely scenic pictures to use on my future blog post reviews, (which I haven’t done yet) and definitely use on my Instagram. InstaPerfection being the goal! But that didn’t happen. Not the reviews yet, or the InstaPerfection posts!
Instead we sat bumper to bumper between double decker coaches for three hours! Every single lay-bye and parking spot was full. There was literally no way we could stop, even if we’d needed to. Firstly there wasn’t space for us to stop because every lay bye was overflowing with the aforementioned coaches, and secondly the flow of traffic was so heavy that it wasn’t possible to slow down and pull over off the thick tar road without massively disrupting the traffic and potentially causing an accident.
I’m not exaggerating. We had a Garmin Virb camera set up to take a picture of the beautiful vistas we were expecting in front of us (it’s not our first time, we were there in 2007 as young child-free explorers). It was set to take a picture every 30 seconds. What I ended up with is 4256 pictures of the back of a bright blue bus! Before I got fed up and turned it off.
After spending the first two hours saying to my harassed husband/driver, “There’s a layby coming up, let’s stop there.” Only to find it already full to capacity and so we couldn’t stop.
It was at that point that I realised that I was getting more and more annoyed at the fact that I could not get MY Instaperfect pictures because of all the other tourists there who were blocking the views and car parks all trying to get THEIR InstaPerfect pictures. Groups of smiling faces armed with selfie sticks and tripods, pulling faces, and doing the group jump in the air. You know what I mean! They were all getting theirs, and I couldn’t get mine! Where was my instaperfection?
Houston, we have a problem!
It was like a lightbulb went off for me. Maybe not a lightbulb, but a realisation that I was in danger of becoming the worst version of an Instagrammer, the kind that I really don’t want to be. You know the kind. The type of person who, if left unchecked, would only go on adventures to be able to a picture for ‘the gram’. And for what? To say they were there?
With the lightbulb moment came an almost sense of relief. I honestly can’t explain to you how sick to death I am of the pressure required to keep ahead of the Instagram algorithm I am. The pressure to get the best, most unique picture of us all having a great time! The right angle, the right lighting, the right filter, and the right hashtags! Give me strength! InstaPerfection is flippen impossible!
Let’s face it. None of us really KNOW how to beat the algorithm. Instagram’s growth rate has slowed down massively over the last year, and thereby the growth rate of many of the accounts too. And do you know why it’s slowed down?
Because everyone is already on it!
There aren’t very many new users because the whole world has now signed up! Follower numbers aren’t growing because you only see pictures of the same 100 (if you’re lucky) accounts that you always see. You can be following 5000 accounts and you will see pictures in your feed from the same 50 people you always do! Why? Because of the algorithm!
So then you go and search using hashtags. And then you find … InstaPerfection. A load of carefully curated, digitally edited, professional photographs that just make your smartphone photo look … a bit shit really.
To put this into perspective, when we got to the Glenfinnan Viaduct, there wasn’t anywhere to park safely. We could have just stopped a mile back and walked the narrow road, with our kids, and then hike up the side of a mountain and queue with 5642 other people to maybe see the viaduct. Then using my iPhone 8 I’d never get the picture I wanted anyway because it’s ridiculously far away and the zoom function is not great!
So, as a responsible parent, I decided to give up the dream of getting the perfect shot. Instead, whilst the car was stationary in traffic that had come to a stand-still [read: the coaches were vying for space], I “safely” jumped out the car, alone. I walked to the end of the car park that was reserved ‘just for coaches’ … *breathe Carly*. I then zoomed in a bit, snapped a grainy picture to send to my family via WhatsApp to show them that I’d actually been there, and then I ran back to wait for my husband to turn around god know where, come back and fetch me. And then we carried on our way.
What a f*cking effort for nothing. My kids didn’t even know where we were, or what mommy was doing. They were just upset thinking daddy had left mommy behind – or so they led me to believe. Either that, or they wanted the toilet … again!
The Perfect Shot
After that we carried on to Ben Nevis. I had this cool idea of our family visiting the 3 peaks within 3 months and having visited Mount Snowdon in Wales the month before, this was 2nd on our list.
There were a lot less/fewer coaches and crowds when we got there. [I think they were all stuck trying to turn around on the narrow road at Glenfinnan.] So we took the cable car up to the top and then took the short walking route to the viewpoint on the side of the mountain. I took a few lovely photos of our family at the top. A kind stranger and us reciprocated so we could all get the elusive ‘whole family in one picture’ shot. It was nice. They got theirs, we got ours. There weren’t many people where we were so we managed to enjoy our time there and get our family InstaPerfect photos while we were at it.
In our “InstaPerfect family photo” the teenager was grumpy because the wind was blowing her hair out of it’s perfectly styled style; the middle child had a muddy mark on her face from wiping her tears with her dirty hand from when she tripped running over the rocks when I told her not to 5 minutes before; the youngest was attempting to strike a pose like she was on the cover of vogue; and my husband and I were attempting to keep the children from falling off the rock and plunging down the side of the mountain whilst yelling at each other to smile! Like I said, the perfect family photo! Here’s my personal favourite from the day!
By the time we left, the coaches had arrived. [I guess they managed to find somewhere to turn around.] The queue for the cable car was about 100 meters long. No joke.
All Is Not Lost, Or Forgotten
Whilst we were up there I did manage to take a few pictures for Instagram using some of the techniques I have learnt. Nothing fancy. They came out okay, I was personally impressed – but maybe that was because I loved being there. The laughs and tears, the teasing and the wind in our hair.
But … you won’t see any of those pictures that I did post on Instagram when you search the #BenNevis hashtag. Those type of photos won’t come up on the Top Feed. And that’s okay. I’ve made my peace with it.
Instead, what you will probably see is the one of the person who hiked up on foot, and then hung off a cliff with one hand and took a picture with super HD, long range lens from his all-singing-all-dancing camera, who then edited the shit out of the photo to make it look as InstaPerfect as possible using their computer (not their phone), probably accompanied by a very beautiful model type person with full make-up who did NOT break a sweat on her hike up the tallest mountain in Scotland. #JustSaying.
Those of us normal people don’t stand a chance competing for the algorithm’s favour with our basic smartphone picture, enhanced with maybe with a Lux filter slapped on top and crying ‘bored’ children. I mean, really?!
What is my point? What did I learn?
- Don’t go to the Highlands in Easter if you want a family holiday to actually spend being on holiday and not competing for space to take an “epic selfie”. There isn’t room. Go literally any other time! You won’t be sorry.
- Perfectly Imperfect pictures are better for memories anyway, so don’t try hang off any cliffs to get the perfect shot.
- Get some perspective. Family life is far more important than the perfect instagram picture. Be present in the moment.
Will I go back to Scotland? YES!
Will I still try to take beautiful photos? Also Yes!
Will I always try to remember the lesson I learnt, that it’s more about the adventure with your loved ones, than the InstaPerfect version of the perfect family road trip? Definitely Yes!
Thank you Scotland for humbling me. I am InstaImpefect, and that’s okay with me because without my lovely family it wouldn’t matter anyway.
I’d love to know what you think about this whole idea of going on holiday to and feeling like you need to report back in someway about how wonderful where you are is, or what a fantastic time you’re having? And if you feel anything remotely like me, please share this post to spread the word that it’s okay to be fed up with trying to be InstaPerfect all the chuffing time!
In the meantime, you can check out my imperfect Instagram picture here if want, and don’t forget, InstaPerfection is not real life.
Update: Germany – August 2019 (When will I learn?)
This is the iconic Neuschwanstein Castle in Germany, covered in scaffolding! The queues to get in were so long that we would have to have waited all day, even with our passes. Nightmare! Luckily the holiday itself was so epic, one moment did not dent the holidays. Check out our day in Bruges.